Monday, June 1, 2015

Thanks to Mike Campbell

I’m grateful to Mike Campbell for posting an image of a ferrous metal fragment from Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands ( [scroll down to August 22, 2014]). Mike – following the lead of its discoverer, Oliver Knaggs -- thinks it represents a “silver (colored) container” that he says Ralph Middle says that fishermen Lijon and Jororo said they saw in the hands of a pair of aviators, male and female, who – they are said to have said – landed at Mili and were captured by the Japanese in 1937. He concludes that the male flyer was Fred Noonan, and that the box may have been the one Amelia Earhart reported that Noonan acquired in Africa en route to New Guinea and the pair’s date with destiny over the Pacific.

What I find interesting is that Mike’s (that is, Knagg’s) fragment looks a lot like a collection of tiny ferrous fragments we’ve recovered from the SL fire feature at the Seven Site on Nikumaroro. They’re similar in that both the Mili artifact and those from Nikumaroro have these funny little bumps on them. In the case of Mike’s artifact, the bumps are obviously the heads of connectors (probably rivets of some kind) that held a hinge to the body of the metal box. I’d suspected this in the case of the bumpy ferrous pieces from the SL Feature, and Mike’s image makes me much more confident of my interpretation.

The Mili artifact, though, seems to represent a box with a couple of discrete hinges. We have far too many pieces of bumpy ferrous in the SL Feature to represent that kind of hinge arrangement.  But it also looks like our bumps are a lot smaller than Mike’s (It’s hard to be sure, since he doesn’t include a scale in his image). So maybe our box had a single hinge that extended the length of one side, and was riveted multiple times with very small rivets.

Above: example of metal fragment with apparent rivet, SL Feature, Seven Site. Millimeter scale

Some of our ferrous fragments also have very thin wires embedded in them, between ferrous lamellae. This has been puzzling, but as I think about the possibility of a hinged box, I’m imagining some kind of spring-loaded self-opening or closing hinge featuring a thin wire or wires coiled along the length of the hinge with opposing right-angle bends at the two ends. It’s a possibility, anyhow.

There’s no particular reason to think that Mike’s artifact or our many metal fragments have anything to do with Earhart and Noonan . Mili was heavily occupied and built up during the Japanese administration, so there are lots of possible sources for Mike’s fragment. Nikumaroro’s colonists or Coast Guardsmen could have been responsible for the metal we’ve found. Because the Seven Site has produced so many suggestive artifacts, though – the probable compact, the probable freckle crème jar, the various bottles, the jackknife, the buttons and zipper pull, for instance – we want to understand everything we’ve found there. Mike’s post may help us understand our metal fragments, and I’m grateful for that. 

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